APF Newsletter 8 July 2020

We regret the delay since the last Newsletter.

The primary reason has again been busyness on policy issues, but to some extent the COVID-19 epidemic has also played a role.
The lockdown hasn’t greatly affected the workings of an organisation that has operated mostly virtually for decades already. However, it’s had a substantial impact on many of our most active volunteers.
The drastic economic slowdown is disproportionately affecting the self-employed. Meanwhile, the government’s structuring of its support programs to actively exclude the tertiary education sector has harmed the interests even of employed academics. And it’s doing far more damage to the large proportion of university teaching staff who have been ‘casualised’ as a result of the invasion of chancelries by profit-oriented CEOs and their inevitable focus on large marketing overheads.

The COVID-19 epidemic has been used as an excuse by elements within the public service to further their desires for social control. Rather than being abashed by the court’s demolition of the Robo-Debt program, they have turned their attention to establishing the misleadingly-named ‘COVIDsafe’ contact ‘tracing’ tool that was quite evidently designed to fail, both technically and operationally, opening up the possibility of mass ‘tracking’ surveillance.

Considerable efforts continue to be invested in a wide range of other privacy matters.

The desire among economists to impose a right for corporations to access consumers’ data, dressed up as a ‘Consumer Data Right’ (CDR), is coming to fruition, with the privacy needs largely ignored.

The ABS held a nominal consultation process in relation to Census 2021, and then ignored the submissions made to it. It may be necessary for the APF to be more forthright than it has been in the past, and declare the ABS to have not just breached public trust, but to have destroyed it, such that the public can be expected to increasingly treat the agency and the survey with disdain.

Applications of biometrics continue to be wildly inappropriate and largely uncontrolled.

The OAIC continues to protect government agencies and business, not privacy.

Among the issues where we’re still in the ring, influencing policy decisions, are:

  • Google’s proposed acquisition of Fitbit – a global collection of health, location and other data
  • TOLA (the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (International Production Orders) Bill) – weakly-accountable overseas access to a wide range of Australian data in the cloud
  • extensions of the CDR into such areas as electricity and gas

On the positive side:

  • re RoboDebt, the submissions of APF and so many other advocacy organisations about the iniquitous behaviour of (Achtung: newspeak:) ‘Services Australia’ have been vindicated, but far too late to prevent a vast amount of harm among the least well-off. But the harm, and the waste of over a billion dollars, have given rise not to sackings, demotions and prosecutions, but rather to promotions
  • aspects of the ACCC’s Report on Digital Platforms have been highly privacy-positive, and may lead to some actual benefits for privacy
  • even technology suppliers are realising that the potential of facial recognition has been massively over-sold, and governments need to pull back on their schemes until and unless they are subjected to effective regulation

Here is the index of policy papers.

They are also accessible by topic-area.

We’re working on a wiki page to carry details of all current opportunities to influence policy relevant to privacy. It’s intended to be maintainable by any contributor. Here’s a pilot implementation.

The APF continues to value your support for its work for privacy, and against privacy-abusive initiatives in business and government.

Membership Renewals: With the turnover of the new financial year, Renewal Notices are due to go out shortly, except of course to Life Members and recent new Members. Here is Membership-related information